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Deflections - About “The Ostrich Effect”


There are some web sites for hockey and coaching which are essential reading, aside from, naturally. One is, created by Calgary coach Dean Holden.

He scours the internet for articles from publications for anything related to coaching, physical literacy and related topics. They’re written by a wide range of researchers, coaches, etc. It’s a treasure trove of information. I urge anyone interested in professional development about coaching to check it out.

A recent article was by John O’Sullivan, whose own site,, and writings have had a significant influence on the direction of coaching and sport participation in the U.S. 

The article is entitled “The Ostrich Effect: Why we ignore our coaching problem & how to fix it.” He maintains that more education and training for coaches is the answer, not less, and cites both USA Hockey and Hockey Canada as examples of sport governing bodies which have mandatory coach training.

Except it’s not completely accurate. In Canada, depending on where you live and at what level you coach, not all coaches need to attend coach training programs. (Every coach in Canada, however, must complete the online Respect in Sport program). This usually applies to assistant coaches or so-called “helpers” in recreational leagues. At older and/or certain competitive levels, head coaches are required to have minimum training while assistants often need only a level below, if that. As a generalization, if a typical team has one head coach and two assistants, we’re basically training about a third of our coaches at many levels.

Moreover, the extent of training varies considerably. In some places, it’s as little six hours or less. One argument is that, if forced to go to more or longer training sessions, coaches won’t do it. As well, the cost of the courses varies wildly, but they are rarely under $100. In a few regions, provincial funding covers the cost, but this is the exception, not the rule.

O’Sullivan says, “The biggest problem I see is that far too many organizations suffer from the ostrich effect. They have their heads in the sand. It’s easier to provide education based upon what they believe their least motivated coach will tolerate. They run the same tired pre-season meeting, or single, voluntary coaching clinic, hand out the same old PDF, and wash their hands of it. They say if we ask too much, no one will volunteer.

He maintains that making courses easier to access and cheaper will actually keep coaches in the sport. He writes, “Coaches who have been well trained and provided with the tools to enjoy coaching more come back year after year, even after their kids move on. Over time you will build a stable of well-trained enthusiastic coaches. You will elevate your program, and improve the experience for kids.”

He is correct. If we don’t train coaches properly, we do them and their players a disservice. Shortcuts in education don’t work.

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